Chomsky: No Change Coming With Obama



Professor Chomsky, we better start with Pakistan. The White House not commenting on the killings of people [in cross-border drone attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan]. Richard Holbrooke, someone whom you’ve written about in the context of Yugoslavia, is the man [President Barack] Obama has chosen to solve the situation.

Chomsky: Well, it was pretty clear that Obama would accept the Bush doctrine that the United States can bomb Pakistan freely, and there have been many case which are quite serious.

There has been for example a great deal of chaos and fighting in Bajaur province, which is a adjacent to Afghanistan and tribal leaders- others there- have traced it to the bombing of a madrassa school which killed 80 to 95 people, which I don’t think was even reported in the United states, it was reported in the Pakistani press of course.

The author of the article reporting it, a well-known nuclear physicist, Pervez Hoodbhoy pointed out at the time that this kind of massacre will of course engender terror and reactions, which will even threaten the state of Pakistan. And that has been what is happening. We are now seeing more of it.

The first message of the Pakistani government to General [David] Petraeus, the American General when he took command of the region was that they did not want any more bombings in Pakistan.

Actually, the first message to the new Obama administration by President [Hamid] Karzai of Afghanistan was the same, that he wanted no more bombings. He also said that he wants a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign troops, US and other troops, from Afghanistan. That was of course just ignored.

Press TV: And these three foreign envoys, well the third one has not been announced yet perhaps, but some people are expressing optimism about George Mitchell’s position as Middle East envoy.

Richard Holbrooke, which have looked at. We have talked to the former Bosnian foreign minister here, who seemed to imply that he may even have had a role in the say so for the Srebrenica massacre, and of course, Dennis Ross is being talked about as an envoy for Iran.

Chomsky: well Holbrooke has a pretty awful record, not so much Yugoslavia, but earlier. For example, In the Indonesian atrocities in eastern Timor, where he was the official in charge, and evaded to stop the US support for them, and all together it’s a very spotty record.

George Mitchell is, of the various appointments that have been made, he is the most decent let’s say. He has a pretty decent record. He achieved something in Northern Ireland, but of course, in that case there was an objective.

The objective was that the British would put an end to the resort to violence in response to IRA terror and would attend to the legitimate grievances that were the source of the terror. He did manage that, Britain did pay attention to the grievances, and the terror stopped- so that was successful.

But there is no such outcome sketched in the Middle East, specially the Israel-Palestine problem. I mean, there is a solution, a straightforward solution very similar to the British one. Israel could stop its US-backed crimes in the occupied territories and then presumably the reaction to them would stop. But that’s not on the agenda.

In fact, President Obama just had a press conference, which was quite interesting in that respect. He praised the parabolic peace initiative, the Saudi initiative endorsed by the Arab League, and said it had constructive elements. It called for the normalization of relation with Israel, and he called on the Arab states to proceed with those “constructive elements,” namely the normalization of relations.

But that is a gross falsification of the Arab League initiative. The Arab League initiative called for accepting a two-state settlement on the international border, which has been a long-standing international consensus and said if that can be achieved then Arab states can normalize relations with Israel.

Well, Obama skipped the first part, the crucial part, the core of the resolution, because that imposes an obligation on the United States. The United States has stood alone for over thirty years in blocking this international consensus, by now it has totally isolated the US and Israel.

Europe and now a lot of other countries have accepted it. Hamas has accepted it for years, the Palestinian Authority of course, the Arab League now for many years [have accepted it]. The US and Israel block it, not just in words, but they are blocking it in actions constantly, (this is) happening every day in the occupied territories and also in the siege of Gaza and other atrocities.

So when he skips that it is purposeful. That entails that the US is not going to join the world in seeking to implement a diplomatic settlement, and if that is the case, Mitchell’s mission is vacuous.

Press TV: Is there a contradiction in that George Mitchell of course did speak to members of the Sinn Féin, their military wing of course of the IRA.

At the same time, well on this channel [Press TV] we have been covering the Gaza conflict, its headquarters were bombed, and now we are being told that Israeli soldiers will not give their names, and the names of people are not being released for fear of prosecution.

And yet, some were saying that Obama did say that the border should be opened. Should we see any change in policy there?

Chomsky: He did say that, but he did not mention the fact that it was in the context of a lot other demands. And Israel will also say, sure the borders should be opened but he still refuses to speak to the elected government (i.e. Hamas), quite different from Mitchell in Northern Ireland.

It means Palestinians will have to be punished for voting in a free election, the way the US did not want them to, and he endorsed the Condoleezza Rice-Tzipi Livni agreement to close the Egyptian-Gaza order, which is quite an act of imperial arrogance.

It is not their border, and in fact, Egypt strongly objected to that. But Obama continued. He says we have to make sure that no arms are smuggled through the tunnels into the Gaza Strip. But he said nothing about the vast dispatch of far more lethal arms to Israel.

In fact, right in the middle of the Gaza attack, December 31, the Pentagon announced that it was commissioning a German ship to send 3,000 tons of war material to Israel. That did not work out, because the government of Greece prevented it but it was supposed to go through Greece but it could all go through somewhere else. This is right in the middle of the attack on Gaza.

Actually there were very little reporting, very few inquiries. The Pentagon responded in an interesting way. They said, well this material won’t be used for the attack on Gaza, in fact they knew that Israel had plans to stop the attack right before the inauguration, so that Obama would not have to say anything about it.

But the Pentagon said that this material is being used for pre-positioning for US forces. In other words, this has been going for a long time, but this is extending and reinforcing the role of Israel as a US military base on the edge of the major oil producing regions of the world. If they are ever asked why they are doing it, they will say for defense or stability, but it is just a base for further aggressive action.

Press TV: Robert Gates and Admiral [Mike] Mullen have been talking about the 16-month timeline for withdrawal from Iraq is just one of the options, a slight difference from what Obama has been saying in the campaign. And, Hillary Clinton famously said she was prepared to obliterate all of Iran and kill 70 million citizens. On Iraq and Iran what do you see as changes?

Chomsky: What happened in Iraq is extremely interesting and important. The few correspondents with real experience any whom know something have understood it. Patrick Cockburn, Jonathan Steele and one or two others.

What has happened is that there was a remarkable campaign of non-violent resistance in Iraq, which compelled the United States, step-by-step, to back away from its programs and its goals. They compelled the US occupying forces to allow an election, which the US did not want and tried to evade in all sorts of ways.

Then they went on from there to force the United States to accept at least formally a status of forces agreement, which if the Obama administration lives up to it, will abandon most of the US war aims. It will eliminate the huge permanent military bases that the US has built in Iraq. It will mean the US will not control decisions over how the oil resources will be accessed and used. And in fact just every war aim is gone.

Of course there is a question of whether the US will live up to it and what you are reporting is among the serious indications that they are trying to evade living up to it. But what happened there is really significant, and a real credit to the people of Iraq, who have suffered miserably. I mean, the country has been absolutely destroyed, but they did manage to get the US to back away formally from its major war aims.

In the case of Iran, Obama’s statements have not been as inflammatory as Clinton’s, but they amount to pretty much the same thing. He said all options are open. Well, what does all options mean? Presumably that includes nuclear war, you know, that is an option.

There is no indication that he is willing to take the steps, say, that the American population wants. An overwhelming majority of the American population for years has been in favor, has agreed with the Non-Aligned Movement, that Iran should have the rights granted to the signers of the non-proliferation treaty, in fact to develop nuclear energy.

It should not have the right to develop nuclear weapons, and more interestingly about the same percentages, about 75 to 80%, call for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the region, which would include Iran, Israel, and any US forces deployment there, within all kinds of verifications and so on.

That could eliminate probably one of the major sources of the conflict. There is no indication that the Obama administration has any thought of doing anything about this.

Press TV: Just finally Professor Chomsky, the US economy, of course where you are -that is dominating the news and the lives all Americans and arguably the people around the world- and this 825 billion dollar package. How do you think the Obama people are going to handle this?

Chomsky: Nobody really knows. I mean, what is happening with the economy is not well understood. It is based on extremely opaque financial manipulations, which are quite hard to decode. I mean, the general process is understood, but whether the $800 billion, or probably larger government stimulus, will overcome this crisis, is not known.

The first $350 billion have already been spent- that is the so-called part bailout but that went into the pockets of banks. They were supposed to start lending freely, but they just decided not to do it. They would rather enrich themselves, restore their own capital, and take over other banks- mergers and acquisition and so on.

Whether the next stimulus will have an effect depends very much on how it is handled, whether it is monitored, so that it is used for constructive purposes. [It relies] also on factors that are just not known, like how deep this crisis is going to be.

It is a worldwide crisis and it is very serious. It is suddenly striking that the ways that Western countries are approaching the crisis is exactly the same as the model that they enforce on the Third World when there is a crisis.

So when Indonesia has a crisis, Argentina and everyone else, they are supposed to raise interest rates very high and privatize the economy, and cut down on public spending, measures like that. In the West, it is the exact opposite: lower interest rates to zero, move towards nationalization if necessary, pour money into the economy, have huge debts.

That is exactly the opposite of how the Third World is supposed to pay off its debts, and that this seems to pass without comment is remarkable. These measures for the West are ones that might get the economy moving again, while it has been a disaster for others.

Press TV


What Was Said, and What Was Not

Especially because he is so often such a skilled and moving orator…

And because of the tradition of momentous inaugural addresses accompanying momentous national transitions…

And because we so badly need such words and the powerful ideas behind them at the time of this particular momentous transition…

And because this was such a grand opportunity to launch a new direction in our politics, governance and community…

…For all these reasons I confess that I was somewhat disappointed with Barack Obama’s inaugural address.

Admittedly, my expectations were very high — perhaps unfairly so. Had George W. Bush or even John Kerry delivered the very same speech, I might have been rather impressed.

Moreover, I am loathe to micro-criticize this well-intentioned president, beginning literally with his first minutes in office. He deserves much better than that, and so do we.

But, truth be told, we needed some Lincoln, some FDR, some Kennedy this week, and we didn’t get it.

Obama speaks in rather vague generalities that allow his audience to project onto him much of what they choose to. I assume that, smart as he is, he does this on purpose, since he can thus benefit from winning their support without leaving himself pinned to commitments he may wish to avoid at a later date. That’s the mark of a skilled politician, but I don’t mean that as a compliment. It’s not the mark of a leader, it’s not the mark of the bold, and it’s not the mark of the moral.

The line from the speech I found most compelling was a case in point concerning his (intentional?) ambiguity. When he spoke about putting away childish things, that could have meant many things. If it had a particular meaning at all, I don’t think he meant it the way I wish he had. His reference was probably to the petty partisanship in Washington that he seeks to rise above during his presidency. I sure don’t have a problem with most of that concept, and I have no doubt that’s a winning theme with the majority of Americans. It’s just that a significant part of the disputes we’ve witnessed are real fights over real issues, and what we don’t need right now is for the Tom Daschles and Harry Reids of this world to all hold hands with regressive predators in the name of all getting along well on Sunday morning talk shows.

I’m not sure anyone would have been well served by Obama describing in detail the nightmare of our present circumstances, and naming the names of the folks most responsible for our condition, and this he largely did not do, except rather obliquely. It’s not in his nature, and it would not have served his purposes, for if there’s anything he appears to want to be from what we’re seeing of him, it’s a conciliator. Of course, his interests and the country’s are not necessarily the same thing. Personally, I don’t think conciliation at all costs is appropriate, especially now. If, for example, conciliation meant continuing in Iraq or Guantánamo, I say forget it. Even so, and even with all the bitterness within me, I didn’t feel the need for him to trash talk the little prince sitting right behind him. Now, on the other hand, if Obama wants to deploy his Justice Department in a series of criminal investigations of the Bush administration, that’s another thing…

I also can’t imagine an American president in 2008 being able to say to the world, “Sorry, man, we really screwed up,” as much as I suspect the new president probably believes that. Indeed, not only was there no comment of that ilk, but there was instead the obligatory macho rumblings from the helm of the insecure superpower. Even this may be advisable, if words are the cheap price that must be paid to keep the discredited right discredited. For surely if anything one-hundredth the magnitude of 9/11 were to happen on his watch, these great patriots will lunge to eviscerate Obama for his dangerous naivete and pacifism, even if he hadn’t ignored warnings about the incident and chosen to stay on vacation the month prior.

So what did happen in this speech? Two related things, I’d say, principally. First, there was a re-centering of American politics. I feel a bit sorry for young people who have effectively only ever known George W. Bush as their president. They’ve never had a model of something better in their lifetimes. Even still, they knew something was seriously, sickeningly wrong with their government. What they might not have been able to see, however, was the degree to which Bush was an aberration from a consensus that has long existed in American politics. Republican or Democratic administration, there’s been a shared sensibility, a shared set of boundaries, within which American government has operated for nearly a century now, with only the partial exception of Lil’ Bush’s forebear, Ronald Reagan.

Bush was the only sustained aberration to that consensus, and bringing the 19th (if not the 13th) century back to life in the 21st was, of course, just as disastrous as any intelligent being might have predicted — and many of us did. Much of Obama’s speech was a reminder of those boundaries and the hard-gained wisdom associated with their acquisition over centuries of experience. He talked about how government is neither all bad nor all good, how the market can be beneficial but only within limits, how our ideals, liberties and rights need not be sacrificed to maintain our security, how our power abroad is based on more than the size of our military arsenal.

Whodathunkit, eh? Mixed economy, guaranteed freedoms, good relations abroad. What a concept, huh? Back in the hazy, distant past of 2000, we thought we had learned these lessons for the rest of time. But what we’ve learned instead from Bush and Cheney is just how tenuous those principles really are. It was therefore right and proper that Obama devoted a portion of his inaugural speech to reacquainting us with our better angels, so long on holiday of late.

The president’s second theme was to issue in his speech a rather tepid call to arms, a rallying cry to bring the country together to collectively address a national crisis or six. This was right and necessary, but it was probably wholly insufficient.

Whether that is true or not brings us right face to face with the trifecta of related questions whose answers will sketch the grand arc of American history these next decades: How deep are we in this thing? How bold is this president willing to be, both in policy decisions and in advocacy of those positions before a reluctant public gown lazy and selfish? And, therefore, will he be a great president or merely a good one?

Imagine if FDR had responded to Pearl Harbor by waiting a week or two, then casually mentioning the event in a VFW speech principally devoted to trade policy with Latin America. Abraham Lincoln is widely considered America’s best president in history, and his predecessor, James Buchanan, is generally thought to be the worst. (Or, at least, he used to be.) And, interestingly, both for the same reason — namely, how they reacted to the crisis of Southern secession. Buchanan dithered, Lincoln responded. And even though I am among those rare individuals who thinks that history gets this backwards (as much as I admire Lincoln in many ways), since I generally believe in the right of peaceable secession, you can nevertheless see the point here. The public demands action from its presidents in a moment of crisis, and the great ones are those who show up.

This is what people want. Except, of course, when they don’t, which tends to be when they are lazy, selfish and unwilling to sacrifice. I think there has been an implicit understanding amongst our political class that this is precisely how to understand the country today. In the moment of greatest crisis in a generation’s time, our president calls upon us to go shopping. No politician not seeking career suicide seems capable of getting the words ‘tax increase’ past their lips. Indeed, whilst fighting two expensive wars overseas, Washington massively slashed tax revenues. Whether a generation or two grown fat in opulence and enured to remote controls and microwaved meals could ever again be called upon to make a more authentic sacrifice for country than sticking a removable magnetic yellow-ribbon on the back of their SUVs is truly an open question. Not for nothing do we have an all-volunteer military.

Perhaps the answer to what we can expect from people depends on how deep is the crisis we face, which is the even more fundamental open question of our time. Maybe this is just another recession we’re into now — albeit a bad one — and we’ll emerge from it to become richer than ever, as we have in the past. Or maybe not. And, of course, that is only the economic crisis, among many others.

I tend to think that this is a lot bigger turning point in American and even human history. Actually, I suspect we long ago hit that turning point, but managed to mask it with theft, rampant borrowing, and feel-good jingoist politics, of which regressives like Reagan and both Bushes were masterful at exploiting.

Ultimately, the question of our time is about sustainability. Have we merely hit various speed-bumps along the road — somehow, in a stroke of ridiculously improbable bad luck, all simultaneously — or do these economic and fiscal and environmental and foreign policy and healthcare and national security crises represent something far more fundamental? Has America been living, in all these respects, a fundamentally unsustainable lifestyle? One in which maintaining pathetically juvenile materialist compulsions of seemingly bottomless proportions requires predatory foreign policies, catastrophic environmental degradation, looting of our own children’s piggy banks, and leaving one-sixth of the population with no health insurance whatsoever?

I think it’s pretty hard to avoid that conclusion, actually. And I suspect that Barack Obama knows this as well as I do. But either way — whether he is cynical or just Pollyannaish — what was missing from the grand opportunity of this inaugural speech was an equally grand reckoning with this difficult but unavoidable destiny. As such, Obama risks falling very much on the wrong side of history. If some Dennis Kucinich has to ride into office eight years from now and do radical surgery on a patient who could have been saved at far less cost and with far less trauma a decade earlier, then his predecessor, the man who could have been Lincoln, instead becomes another Buchanan.

American politics is nothing if not a continual exercise in irony, and what makes this particular scenario especially ironic is that it would actually do the country a world of good to jettison its old ways. In that sense, we are like the kid who expends ten times the energy finding ways to avoid doing his homework as just doing the assignment would have required. I suspect we could even make this transition — if we did it intelligently — in ways that would not even necessarily significantly diminish our current levels of opulence, though god knows this corporate machine dba The United States of America could stand a serious redefinition or two of what it means to be rich. I think we might even feel good about the process, about the temporary sacrifices, and about our gluttonous selves, in ways we haven’t for so very long now.

But getting there will require a far bolder Barack Obama than we’ve seen these last two years, and than was to be found on the inaugural platform this week. Maybe the guy knows something I don’t. Maybe he and I are heading toward the same place, but he’s just a lot craftier about how to get there than I am. But if that’s his strategy, I would question whether he can fool people big enough to go far enough. And whether a fooled people are a transformed people at the end of the day, anyhow.

Or maybe he’s smart enough to appreciate that this has to be done incrementally. And that you have to win power to exercise power. Lord knows if I had been his speechwriter these last two years we’d be stuck with Her Highness, Madame President right now. Or maybe even President POW and his sidekick, Vice President Jesus Ignoramus Moosekiller. But even if incrementalism is requisite to get this biggest of jobs done, there are rare moments where you get to crank the ratchet a couple of good solid turns, standing there on your bully pulpit. This was one of them.

What we heard on Tuesday was fine, if less than Lincolnesque in its eloquence. But I’m far more troubled by what we didn’t hear. Like about the obscene polarization of wealth bequeathed us by Reaganism-Bushism. Like about the impending doom of our little blue spaceship if we don’t get serious about global warming, starting yester-decade. We did not hear about how it is morally and fiscally unsustainable to maintain a military machine that costs more than every other country’s on the planet, combined. We did not hear that our healthcare system is a crime masquerading as national policy. We did not hear plain talk about the lethal bankruptcy of our foreign policy.

These are gigantic challenges necessitating gigantic responses. Even accounting for the possible benefits of incrementalism and perhaps even certain amounts of benign subterfuge, there is no way imaginable to me that we can get close to the required remedies for these problems without a leadership busy at framing these crises as such, articulating grand solutions, cajoling us to do better, and cheering along our progress.

That is why this speech strikes me so much as a lost opportunity. As president, you only get that platform once or twice ever. The only thing even close is an annual state of the union. Everything else is just a speech, just a weekly radio broadcast, just another commencement address. This was the time for some serious cognitive reorientation to lay the groundwork for what comes next.

Barack Obama, fifteen minutes into your presidency, you haven’t lost me yet. And, no matter what, you will always be infinitely superior to the bungling predator who proceeded you. And that counts for a lot.

But if you want to be great and not just okay, if you want to be as revered as your hero, Mr. Lincoln, you’re gonna have to do better.

My advice to you comes in the form of just two words.

Be bold.


Obama’s Orders Leave Framework of Torture, Indefinite Detention Intact

On Thursday, President Barack Obama issued executive orders mandating the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp in a year’s time, requiring that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and military personnel follow the Army Field Manual’s prohibitions on torture, and closing secret CIA prisons overseas.

While the media is portraying these orders as a repudiation of the detention and interrogation policies of the Bush administration, they actually change little. They essentially represent a public relations effort to refurbish the image of the United States abroad after years of torture and extralegal detentions and shield high-ranking American officials from potential criminal prosecution.

In cowardly fashion, Obama staged his signing of the orders in a manner aimed at placating the political right and defenders of Guantánamo and torture and underscoring his intention to continue the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” He was flanked by 16 retired generals and admirals who have pushed for the closure of the prison camp in Cuba on the grounds that it impedes the prosecution of the global “war” and reiterated in his own remarks his determination to continue the basic political framework of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

The continuation of the ideological pretext for wars of aggression and attacks on democratic rights ensures that the police state infrastructure erected under the Bush administration will remain intact. This is further reinforced by Obama’s assurances that his administration will not investigate or prosecute those officials—including Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and others—who were responsible for the policies of torture and illegal detention.

The orders signed by Obama do not undo the Bush administration’s attacks on constitutional and international law. They do not challenge the supposed right of the president to unilaterally imprison any individual, without trial and without charges, by declaring him to be an “enemy combatant.” Nor do they end the procedure known as “extraordinary rendition,” by which the United States during the Bush years kidnapped alleged terrorists and shipped them to foreign countries or secret CIA prisons outside the US, where they were subjected to torture.

They do not affect the hundreds of prisoners—600 at the Bagram prison camp in Afghanistan alone—incarcerated beyond the barbed wire of Guantánamo. If and when Guantánamo is closed, the US government will simply ship alleged terrorists caught up its international dragnet to other American-run prison camps.

On the question of so-called “harsh interrogation techniques,” i.e., torture, Obama’s orders leave room for their continuation. White House Counsel Gregory Craig told reporters the administration was prepared to take into account demands from the CIA that such methods be allowed. Obama announced the creation of a task force that will consider new interrogation methods beyond those sanctioned by the Army Field Manual, which now accepts 19 forms of interrogation, as well as the practice of extraordinary rendition.

Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, Obama’s nominee for director of national intelligence, told a Senate confirmation hearing that the Army Field Manual would itself be changed, potentially allowing new forms of harsh interrogation, but that such changes would be kept secret.

Obama also announced a second task force that is to consider the fate of the 245 detainees remaining at Guantánamo. Earlier this week he suspended the military commission procedures at the prison camp, but has not abolished the military commissions themselves.

The new administration has ruled out the only constitutional remedy for those who have been held under barbaric conditions, without due process, for years—either releasing them or giving them a speedy trial in a civilian court, with all of the accompanying legal protections and guarantees. There has been a great deal of speculation that the administration may support the establishment of a special National Security Court within the civilian court system to try Guantánamo prisoners and other alleged terrorists. This would represent yet another attack on civil liberties, setting up a drumhead court system to railroad those charged with terrorism—something that could in future be used to repress political opposition.

According to NBC Nightly News on Thursday, the administration is considering keeping some 20 Guantánamo detainees, including the five alleged 9/11 conspirators currently facing military commission trials, imprisoned indefinitely without charges in a military brig within the US.

Commentators have noted that the Obama administration wants to prevent noncitizens detained as terrorists from being able to exercise habeas corpus rights.

Two separate measures taken Tuesday and Thursday by Obama point to a further major consideration behind his moves to close Guantánamo and finesse the issue of torture. On Thursday the administration requested a stay in the habeas corpus appeal to the Supreme Court by the only alleged enemy combatant now held on US soil—Ali al-Marri, of Qatar, whom Obama has called “dangerous.” Al-Marri’s lawyers are challenging the right of the president to arrest and jail individuals by declaring them enemy combatants, and it was expected that the Supreme Court’s hearing of the appeal would force Obama to reveal his position on the issue.

This followed Tuesday’s request for a stay from the Federal District Court in Washington in similar appeals that could affect the cases of more than 200 Guantánamo prisoners.

Thus, the immediate effect of the new administration’s moves is to halt civilian trials that could prove immensely damaging to the government by revealing systematic torture of the detainees and could potentially entangle high government officials.


The Secret Meeting Between the Saudi King And The Israeli Officials

A Saudi official, who wished to remain anonymous, said Saudi King Abdullah and President Shimon Pres of Israel met during the Interfaith Conference in New York. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Saud al-Feisal, Saudi foreign minister, were also present at the meeting. Among the topics discussed was mutual cooperation and coordination in regard to the new Arab-Israeli peace plan. Despite the Israeli view, the meeting remained secret and undisclosed to the public and the media at the request of the Saudi officials. The peace plan discussed in this meeting is to be proposed publically upon the start of Obama’s presidency whose close ties to Israel is to be used as leverage to overcome the different obstacles in the Middle East conflict.

Both sides agreed that confronting Iran would not be possible without the success of this proposal. The anonymous official revealed that during the meeting Saudis agreed to remove two articles from the proposed plan: the issue of Jerusalem and the Palestinians’ right to return.

The meeting was arranged by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the high-ranking Saudi security official, and Adel al-Jabeer, Saudi ambassador to the US. Interesting to note, all travel and hotel expenses for the 20 Israeli officials were paid by the Saudis.

full article:

Saudi King Abdullah

Saudi King Abdullah

Caged Citizen Will Test President Obama

If our new president intends to try to make America resemble what it was meant to be, he will have to deal with the noxious residue of the Bush-Cheney war against terrorism. Barack Obama will be confronted, as Harold Reynolds predicted in the October 29 New York Law Journal, with bringing justice to “thousands of . . . men and women cut off from access to their families, tortured, humiliated . . . and kept off stage to this day by Bush’s resistant administration.”

Among these purported menaces to national security are survivors, if they can be found, of CIA secret prisons (“black sites”); victims of CIA kidnapping renditions; and American citizens locked up indefinitely as “unlawful enemy combatants.”

We have one such pariah right here in New York at the Metropolitan Correction Center. He is 28-year-old Sayed Fahad Hashmi, whom I first told you about in this column last week. Confined in extreme isolation as if he were in a supermax prison, Hashmi was put away about a year ago by Bush’s Attorney General Michael Mukasey under what are euphemistically called Special Administrative Measures (SAMs).

Of the 201,000 prisoners presently in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, fewer than 50 are so dangerous to the state that they are held under SAMs, which can be imposed in one-year increments. Mukasey was supposed to inform Hashmi’s lawyer, Sean Maher, on October 29 whether those fierce conditions that were described here last week would be renewed for another year. But as of this writing, no word has come from the Justice Department, and the keys to Hashmi’s cell will soon be in the hands of Barack Obama’s attorney general. When Jeanne Theoharis—a professor of political science at Brooklyn College who has been leading the campaign to get Hashmi out of the cage where he’s been jammed for his daily one hour of “recreation”—asked a Bureau of Prisons staff member how Hashmi has been SAM’d without even being charged with violence, she was told curtly: “He’s being charged with terrorism, right?”

full article:

What “Change” In America Really Means

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

My first visit to Texas was in 1968, on the fifth anniversary of the assassination of president John F Kennedy in Dallas. I drove south, following the line of telegraph poles to the small town of Midlothian, where I met Penn Jones Jr, editor of the Midlothian Mirror. Except for his drawl and fine boots, everything about Penn was the antithesis of the Texas stereotype. Having exposed the racists of the John Birch Society, his printing press had been repeatedly firebombed. Week after week, he painstakingly assembled evidence that all but demolished the official version of Kennedy’s murder.

This was journalism as it had been before corporate journalism was invented, before the first schools of journalism were set up and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around those whose “professionalism” and “objectivity” carried an unspoken obligation to ensure that news and opinion were in tune with an establishment consensus, regardless of the truth. Journalists such as Penn Jones, independent of vested power, indefatigable and principled, often reflect ordinary American attitudes, which have seldom conformed to the stereotypes promoted by the corporate media on both sides of the Atlantic. Read American Dreams: Lost and Found by the masterly Studs Terkel, who died the other day, or scan the surveys that unerringly attribute enlightened views to a majority who believe that “government should care for those who cannot care for themselves” and are prepared to pay higher taxes for universal health care, who support nuclear disarmament and want their troops out of other people’s countries.

Returning to Texas, I am struck again by those so unlike the redneck stereotype, in spite of the burden of a form of brainwashing placed on most Americans from a tender age: that theirs is the most superior society in the history of the world, and all means are justified, including the spilling of copious blood, in maintaining that superiority.

That is the subtext of Barack Obama’s “oratory”. He says he wants to build up US military power; and he threatens to ignite a new war in Pakistan, killing yet more brown-skinned people. That will bring tears, too. Unlike those on election night, these other tears will be unseen in Chicago and London. This is not to doubt the sincerity of much of the response to Obama’s election, which happened not because of the unction that has passed for news reporting from America since 4 November (e.g. “liberal Americans smiled and the world smiled with them”) but for the same reasons that millions of angry emails were sent to the White House and Congress when the “bailout” of Wall Street was revealed, and because most Americans are fed up with war.

full article:

Conservatives Lost More Than An Election

Chuck Baldwin

Chuck Baldwin

That Barack Obama trounced John McCain last Tuesday should have surprised no one. In fact, in this column, weeks ago, I stated emphatically that John McCain could no more beat Barack Obama than Bob Dole could beat Bill Clinton. He didn’t. (Hence a vote for John McCain was a “wasted” vote, was it not?) I also predicted that Obama would win with an electoral landslide. He did. The real story, however, is not how Barack Obama defeated John McCain. The real story is how John McCain defeated America’s conservatives.

For all intents and purposes, conservatism–as a national movement–is completely and thoroughly dead. Barack Obama did not destroy it, however. It was George W. Bush and John McCain who destroyed conservatism in America.

Soon after G.W. Bush was elected, it quickly became obvious he was no conservative. On the contrary, George Bush has forever established himself as a Big-Government, warmongering, internationalist neocon. Making matters worse was the way Bush presented himself as a conservative Christian. In fact, Bush’s portrayal of himself as a conservative Christian paved the way for the betrayal and ultimate destruction of conservatism (something I also predicted years ago). And the greatest tragedy of this deception is the way that Christian conservatives so thoroughly (and stupidly) swallowed the whole Bush/McCain neocon agenda.

full article:

Obama, Emanuel and Israel

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel

In the first major appointment of his administration, President-elect Barack Obama has named as his chief of staff Congressman Rahm Emanuel, an Israeli citizen and Israeli army veteran whose father, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was a member of Menachem Begin’s Irgun forces during the Nakba and named his son after “a Lehi combatant who was killed” — i.e., a member of Yitzhak Shamir’s terrorist Stern Gang, responsible for, in addition to other atrocities against Palestinians, the more famous bombing of the King David Hotel and assassination of the UN peace envoy Count Folke Bernadotte.

In rapid response to this news, the editorial in the next day’s Arab News (Jeddah) was entitled “Don’t pin much hope on Obama — Emanuel is his chief of staff and that sends a message”. This editorial referred to the Irgun as a “terror organization” (a judgment call) and concluded: “Far from challenging Israel, the new team may turn out to be as pro-Israel as the one it is replacing.”

That was always likely. Obama repeatedly pledged unconditional allegiance to Israel during his campaign, most memorably in an address to the AIPAC national convention which Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery characterized as “a speech that broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning”, and America’s electing a black president has always been more easily imagined than any American president’s declaring his country’s independence from Israeli domination.
full article:

Bush’s Last 100 Days the Ones to Watch

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson

The air crackles with anticipation. Fingers are crossed. It gets hard to breathe. Hope, for so long locked in a closet, begins pounding on the door.

And throwing caution to the wind, many already are talking about Barack Obama’s first 100 days. Will he move directly to the Apollo investment agenda, providing money to refit buildings, implement the use of renewable energy and generate jobs in the drive to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Will he put forth a comprehensive health-care plan or begin by covering all children? Will workers finally be given the right to organize once more? How will he handle mortgage relief and/or help cities burdened by poverty?

But even as our minds, against all discipline, look beyond this day to the possible victory and change, we’d better start paying attention to another 100 days — President Bush’s last months in office.

Bush and Vice President Cheney represent a failed conservative era — and they know it. As the administration moves into its last 100 days, there seems to be a flurry of activity: regulations to forestall Obama’s new era of accountability; a flood of contracts to reward friends and lock in commitments; a Wall Street bailout that is pumping money out the door.

Consider: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is handing out $350 billion to the banks, drawing a special circle around nine banks — including Goldman Sachs, the firm he previously headed — as clearly too big to fail. The money apparently has no conditions, even though the entire purpose was to get the banks to start lending once more to one another and to companies and individuals.

full article:

Secret Muslims: Islamophobia in the 2008 presidential campaign

Obama in a Turban

Obama in a Turban

So far, it seems as though they may be on to something. A Pew Research Center poll (6/18=29/08; reported 7/15/08) found that twelve percent of both Democrats and Republicans reported having the erroneous belief, while 10 percent of all voters profess to not knowing his religion because they’ve “heard different things” about it. Fifty-two percent of respondents who knew Obama was a Christian intended to vote for him, versus 37 percent of those who mistakenly believed he was Muslim.

But with few exceptions, media have not reacted nearly as forcefully to the bigotry behind the rumor campaign on their own turf as they did when the tactic was tried in Poland. Instead, journalists often accepted the idea that there was something suspicious or bad about being Muslim by referring to the canard as a “smear”

full article:

« Older entries Newer entries »